Freight train carrying hazardous materials derails in Kansas; vandals blamed |

Freight train carrying hazardous materials derails in Kansas; vandals blamed

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) – A freight train carrying hazardous materials caught fire Thursday after it hit a backhoe apparently parked on the tracks by vandals.

Nearly 120 people were evacuated before dawn as thick black smoke rose from the wreckage in the rural area south of Wichita. Two sheriff’s deputies were treated at a hospital after complaining of breathing problems.

Officials were trying to determine what was in two badly burned containers. They fear it could be sodium hydroxide, a chemical that can cause burns and breathing difficulties, Sedgwick County Fire Chief Gary Curmode said.

Three engines and 10 flat cars derailed just before midnight Wednesday, said Steve Forsberg, spokesman for Burlington Northern Santa Fe. He said the train was headed to Los Angeles from Chicago.

The backhoe was being used by a contractor working on a nearby crossing, and had been left parked several hundred feet from the track, Forsberg said.

”Between the time they quit using it earlier in the evening and when the derailment occurred, someone had moved it onto the track,” he said.

Forsberg said the train crew saw it but was unable to stop in time.

It wasn’t immediately known when the residents will be allowed to return home.

The cargo also included sodium hydroxide, carbon dioxide, compressed nitrogen and perfume products, officials said. The train was not carrying anything that would pose a major disaster, said Randall Duncan, Sedgwick County’s disaster emergency coordinator.

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